Monday, February 06, 2012

[Books] Book Look: Ready Player One

Book Look: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: I can't imagine a book that would be more fun than this one. It's been a long time since I anxiously tore through a book in a couple of sittings, but this one got me.

In an apocalyptic future, the main source of escape and entertainment is a huge virtual universe called OASIS. When the creator of OASIS died he left clues that lead people on an extended quest through this virtual universe. The first one that completes the quest gains wealth and fame and inherits control of OASIS. Naturally with such high stakes in play, nefarious forces from the real world bring an element of real danger.

Sounds kinda lame, doesn't it? Especially when you add in the cliche of good-hearted, downtrodden, multi-ethnic, nerdy high-schoolers overcoming an evil profiteering corporation and finding love and an appreciation of reality over virtual life. I cringe just writing that.

But it was a blast. Here's the thing. The creator of OASIS was obsessed with pop culture form the 1980s, when he was a teenager. John Hughes movies, Monty Python, Dungeons and Dragons, old Atari video games. So part of it is just my personal sense of nostalgia. When I was in my 20s and I could play Missile Command and Defender for as long as I wanted on a single quarter. I could recite huge swaths of The Holy Grail. So yeah. The other part of it is the the plot moves at a breakneck pace, the puzzles solved are relate-able to anyone familiar with '80s gaming. The prose reads easy, and the characters, if cardboard cutouts, are at least likable.

It is limited, of course, by it's simple-minded plot and its, perhaps appropriate, dialogue from an eighties sitcom. In fact, apart from a couple of superfluous adult-themed passages, I wondered seriously why this was not marketed at the young adult demographic. Then I remembered the young adults in 2012 will not likely have a working knowledge of '80s pop culture (although, really, everybody should).

Should you read Ready Player One? I can't imagine any harm coming to anyone from reading this. Certainly if you are forty-ish-plus and did not grow up in an Amish household, you probably have the pop culture knowledge to relate. If you are forty-ish-plus and were even mildly nerdy as a youth, this is a time trip, courtesy of someone who clears knows what it was all about.